Intelligent Design Naturalism Philosophy Religion Science

And now for something completely different: Do angels exist?

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The question is knottier than it might at first appear. Ken Francis, journalist and author of The Little Book of God, Mind, Cosmos and Truth, writes at New English Review:

The beginning of the universe was a supernatural event, as only something that transcends time, space and matter could cause it to happen. Secondly, if the supernatural is real, then the existence of disembodied spirits is possible. If we are not our physical bodies, then a spiritual realm is more probable than improbable. And it’s more likely this realm filled with spiritual entities would be created by an Intelligent Designer sans/universe and before the creation of earthly creatures. As human beings, despite our many follies, we are also extremely intelligent creatures. Our alleged chimpanzee ‘cousins’ (who don’t believe in angels) spend most of their time picking fleas off each other’s backs, eating bugs, copulating and sleeping. In extreme contrast, we paint Sistine Chapels and compose Mozart’s Requiem, fly robots to Mars, use Skype to talk to loved ones at the other side of the world, fall in love and bury our dead.

The atheist philosopher, David Hume, said if rational people have a choice to believe more than one explanation of an event, they should choose to believe that explanation which is most probable. Hume would argue that such a supernatural event of an angelic encounter, by definition, is unbelievable. For Hume, an encounter with an angel would be a violation of the laws of nature. In An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, he writes: “There must, therefore, be a uniform experience against every miraculous event, otherwise the event would not merit that appellation. And as a uniform experience amounts to a proof, there is here a direct and full proof, from the nature of the fact, against the existence of any miracle.”
More.

Of course, Hume isn’t offering a proof; he is offering a rule: Noting outside what he takes to be nature can be credited in principle, and at that point, evidence doesn’t really come into it.

There are other problems, as Francis goes on to note.

Note: Many astute Christians have managed simply by accepting the existence of angels as set out in Scripture but avoiding all popular malarky and angelic kitsch. If an angel had business with us, we wouldn’t be able to get away anyhow.

See also: An editor and journalist reflects on the absurdity of naturalism

File:John Linnell - The Prophet Balaam and the Angel - Google Art Project.jpg
The Prophet Balaam and the Angel/John Linnell (1859): 32 The angel of the Lord asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me.[a] 33 The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared it.” (Nu 22:32-33)

18 Replies to “And now for something completely different: Do angels exist?

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    A lot of poor or unnecessary logic in that first paragraph.

    ” Secondly, if the supernatural is real, then the existence of disembodied spirits is possible. ”

    Unnecessary if. The existence of disembodied spirits is certainly POSSIBLE regardless of anything called “the supernatural”, whatever that means.

    “Our alleged chimpanzee ‘cousins’ (who don’t believe in angels) ”

    How do you know? We don’t know what ANYONE believes outside of our own brain. We know that other humans talk a lot about belief, but that doesn’t prove anything. Chimps don’t talk about beliefs, but most mammals show behavioral evidence of various beliefs.

  2. 2
    daveS says:

    Our alleged chimpanzee ‘cousins’ (who don’t believe in angels) spend most of their time picking fleas off each other’s backs, eating bugs, copulating and sleeping. In extreme contrast, we paint Sistine Chapels and compose Mozart’s Requiem, fly robots to Mars, use Skype to talk to loved ones at the other side of the world, fall in love and bury our dead.

    A side issue, but I don’t know that this is a very balanced comparison. “We” don’t spend most of our time creating great works of art or exploring distant regions of the solar system. Many people spend most of their time struggling to eke out an existence.

    If we are not our physical bodies, then a spiritual realm is more probable than improbable. And it’s more likely this realm filled with spiritual entities would be created by an Intelligent Designer sans/universe and before the creation of earthly creatures.

    I wonder how he evaluates these probabilities?

  3. 3
    daveS says:

    PS to my #2, regarding:

    Our alleged chimpanzee ‘cousins’ (who don’t believe in angels) spend most of their time picking fleas off each other’s backs, eating bugs, copulating and sleeping.

    If they indeed literally are our cousins, should we talk about them in this disparaging way? The sentence above is uncomfortably close to some of the racist talk I have heard from my white brethren.

  4. 4
    News says:

    Thanks all, I knew you guys were out there. Now I can get back to posting my story deck for the day. 😉

  5. 5
    mikeenders says:

    DaveS@3

    Not anywhere near as offensive as your analogy. Our cousins in that context would be another inferior in intelligence (and spirituality) species. Black brethren are not another species to white brethren. Theres a long history of racism that equates to comparing black to monkeys and chimpanzees which your analogy is uncomfortably close to.

    “Many people spend most of their time struggling to eke out an existence. ”

    Which is done with superior intelligence and consideration to higher Faculty – the point of the the quoted section.

  6. 6
    daveS says:

    mikeenders,

    Theres a long history of racism that equates to comparing black to monkeys and chimpanzees which your analogy is uncomfortably close to.

    Yes, I made that analogy in part because I wonder if this habit of comparing our intellects to our closest primate relatives (in which case we always “win”) is correlated, however weakly, to racist thinking. I have seen instances of people using this sort of “logic” to support racist views.

  7. 7
    kairosfocus says:

    BTW, donkeys are smarter than we commonly give credit. Here, there was a man who routinely would go to sleep on his donkey, who would walk him home for many miles. Similarly, I heard of another who, when angered, would brush his rider against “kusha” thorns. Just maybe, the donkey has somewhat to tell us on this subject, if we are willing to listen . . .oh, the irony. KF

  8. 8
    mikeenders says:

    DaveS@6

    We ARE superior and in tangible verifiable ways. You completely miss the problem with racism and show you do not understand racism at all . In racism you classify members of the same species as inferior based on a non-verifiable attribute of skin color or ethnicity. The idea that I am better than a dog is not racist.Continuing to think there is a correlation is in fact racist because it implies a substantial difference within a species based upon color or ethnicity

  9. 9
    kairosfocus says:

    ME, sadly, some imagine that things like culturally loaded IQ tests (backed by crude notions of genetics) provide substantial warrant for the classifications and dismissals. Compound this with poor family environments and under-performing education systems and we can see how things are set up for trouble. Then mix in the various agit prop agendas that ride piggy-back on issues and concerns. Our civilisation is in a lot of trouble, and we are one serious EMP attack away from chaos. KF

  10. 10
    daveS says:

    mikeenders,

    Of course we use the term ‘racism’ in reference to humans only, so it’s not racist to assert one is superior to a dog. Anyone who is capable of posting on this blog is going to more intelligent than any dog, certainly.

    But if we start arranging life forms into a “great chain of being”, then I think that is going to take us where we do not want to go.

    If we assume humans are superior to gorillas, and some person decides that a certain people-group resembles gorillas more than his people-group, then he might just conclude that his people-group is superior to another. After all, who says we can’t rank sub-populations of species in this great chain of being as well?

    Furthermore, why not extend this reasoning to individuals? I would bet that there are humans with severe disabilities who are actually less intelligent than the average chimpanzee. Would such a person be inferior to a chimpanzee?

    Finally, consider this thought experiment. Suppose European explorers had arrived in the New World ~500 years ago and had discovered a population of primates that had characteristics somewhere “between” modern humans and other apes. Perhaps like this in appearance, much more intelligent than chimps on average, but clearly less intelligent than humans. How would we treat them? Or suppose the situation was reversed and some super-intelligent, human-like species were to discover us. Would they be entitled to claim they are superior to us?

  11. 11
    daveS says:

    KF,

    Similarly, I heard of another who, when angered, would brush his rider against “kusha” thorns.

    Heh. Yes, I know someone who has some miniature donkeys, and they are almost like dogs in some ways.

  12. 12
    mikeenders says:

    DaveS@10

    This is a prime example how Darwinism (and liberal psycho babble) turns some people minds to total mush. it doesn’t matter how you spin and contort. You get no say in redefining racism.It is not racist to consider oneself as better than a chimpanzee. Again perhaps it will get through this time – racism is judging people on the basis of their ethnicity not their SPECIES. Blacks and Whites are the same species! As an African American the only scent I smell of racism on this page is your posts which continue to falsely conflate ethnic differences with species differences

    This is the silliness we get to with this train of thought. Chimpanzees should be afforded human rights despite not being human. mentally handicapped HUMANS are equal to less intelligent species (another horrible deplorable statement with no evidence whatsoever that human handicapped people do not exhibit higher faculty).

    Its all brain dead thinking. Even under a Darwinist framework nothing forbids superiority being recognized from species to species.

    I am superior to chimpanzees. Get over it. Logic gives you no votes to rebut. My species out thinks them, can outlast them, loves better than them, is capable of morality and higher concepts, is more creative and contributes more to the universe than they can or ever will. My species can replace anything they bring to the world wheres as the same cannot be said of chimpanzees regarding humanity.

    The fact that someone on the internet doesn’t know what racism is (or how species are defined – hint – not based on superficial similarities) doesn’t change any of that.

  13. 13
    daveS says:

    mikeenders,

    You get no say in redefining racism.It is not racist to consider oneself as better than a chimpanzee. Again perhaps it will get through this time – racism is judging people on the basis of their ethnicity not their SPECIES. Blacks and Whites are the same species!

    Yes, I explicitly agreed with this in my post:

    Of course we use the term ‘racism’ in reference to humans only, so it’s not racist to assert one is superior to a dog.

    Why do you keep insisting I’m saying otherwise?

    I am superior to chimpanzees. Get over it. Logic gives you no votes to rebut. My species out thinks them, can outlast them, loves better than them, is capable of morality and higher concepts, is more creative and contributes more to the universe than they can or ever will.

    You personally are superior to chimpanzees because your species, on average, is more intelligent than any chimpanzee?

    Does this apply to someone who is severely cognitively and physically disabled?

    Do you have any opinion regarding my thought experiment?

  14. 14
    mikeenders says:

    “Or suppose the situation was reversed and some super-intelligent, human-like species were to discover us. Would they be entitled to claim they are superior to us?”

    Why not? According to you anyone can make the claim against dogs. So it would only be a matter of how more “advanced” they had evolved.

    This is where the non materialist framework always provides better protections than the materialistic darwinistic perspective. Any species that can communicate , love, express appreciation for beauty and understands worship meets a standard of protection regardless of where they would fall in any chain of species. Racism was never and will never be destroyed or hampered by considering close “relations” but by people meeting and interacting with others who exhibit all those above qualities of humanity.

    The slavery abolitionist movement in England which spread a round the world began not under a consideration of Darwinism but on the basis laid out above – that slaves were as capable as understanding the gospel and reacting to it.

    If one day we are visited by an advanced civilization we will be in faaaaar less danger of being extinguished or enslaved if they consider my criteria than they do yours of being alleged “cousins” in evolution.

    P.S. to make it clear I have already rebutted your thesis on handicapped people when I stated you have no evidence. Almost all handicapped people I know are of obvious higher capability. Those who are not obvious merely are unable to communicate.

  15. 15
    mikeenders says:

    “You personally are superior to chimpanzees because your species, on average, is more intelligent than any chimpanzee? ”

    Both. Because I am and my species is. logic based rebuttal?

    “Does this apply to someone who is severely cognitively and physically disabled?”

    You are now equating humans with chimpanzees on the basis of physical handicap?

    Where does the madness end?

  16. 16
    daveS says:

    mikeenders,

    Both. Because I am and my species is. logic based rebuttal?

    I don’t think this is a matter of logic, but rather of values.

    Once you get into the business of ranking species by intellect or contributions to the universe, there’s no reason not to rank subpopulations is there? Why stop at the species level?

  17. 17
    mikeenders says:

    “Once you get into the business of ranking species by intellect or contributions to the universe, there’s no reason not to rank subpopulations is there? Why stop at the species level?”

    Fallacious argument. Because any grouping/ranking is legit then all others must be. Species differentiation is based on substantial differences that are much more legit than green eyes and blue eyed people. Theres all kinds of rational basis to not identify people superior based on eye color or skin color. Thats why your equating racism to this issue indicates you don’t understand the root of why racism is indefensible. So contrary to your claim – theres is no shortage of rational reasons to stop when the differences are no longer substantial.

    Why stop at alleged cousins? don’t go outside and step on a blade of grass if you don’t want to rank species. You are the one truly ranking species btw – my criteria grants rights to any species that meets minimum standards. Capable of intelligent conversation, express understanding of beauty and high faculty and it doesn’t matter where you rank. You are protected. Even if one day we should encounter an intellegince that is much further distant from us than a blade of grass is to our own intelligence it still would forbid us being stepped on by that more advanced species.

    its your argument that is about YOUR values not logic. Its PC guided by Darwinism false standards of alleged relatedness. Anyway I leave it there. I see no logic being advanced on your part so its not a worthy conversation beyond this point

  18. 18
    daveS says:

    mikeenders,

    Fallacious argument. Because any grouping/ranking is legit then all others must be.

    There is no sharp distinction between isolated subpopulations and species (as News reminds us frequently).

    If we encounter a previously unknown population of primates, then there may be no objective way to determine whether they are of the same species as us or not.

    I agree there’s probably not much point in taking this further.

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